SAN JOSE–All the optimists anticipating major new announcements at Apple’s
Worldwide Developers Conference were disappointed. While Steve Jobs’
keynote was filled with the showmanship that we’ve all grown to expect
these past few years, precious little of note was actually conveyed
to the eager audience. Sure, there was Growth with a capital G,
but that’s the kind of thing that should go into a quarterly
call to analysts, not the last developers conference before the
release of OS X.
As others have noted, the next generation of QuickTime will have a
more streamlined player interface, and include the ability to encode and
decode MPEG 1 and 2 files. Anyone looking for an excuse to get a G4
just found one, since this is precisely the type of software that
benefits the most from the G4’s Velocity Engine feature. The new
QuickTime VR feature called “cubic panoramas” will certainly make
VR-heads happy; for the first time, Quicktime VR images will be able
to be tilted all the way up to the ceiling (or sky) and all the way
down to the floor (or ground).
The coolest thing about the QuickTime side of the presentation for me
was the statistics about how many copies have been downloaded (over
36 million last year). That’s a lot of QuickTime playback capability.
Considering the inroads that Windows Media Player has made over
RealPlayer, one must wonder why QuickTime isn’t getting greater
recognition outside the standard group of Apple faithful.
The reshuffle of OS X’s ship dates (“Public Beta” this summer and
“1.0 final” next January) didn’t surprise anyone who’d been paying
attention. The most interesting aspect of OS X from my vantage point
is that the DP4 release, handed to all developers at the conference,
is supposed to be solid enough for developers to not just develop on,
but to do Real Work (for example, e-mail) on. Those of
you who’ve developed software know that mission-critical apps like
email don’t belong on machines that crash a lot, just like
development machines do. If Apple is so confident in DP4’s stability
that it is exhorting developers to use it as their main OS, either
they’ve been drinking too deeply from the hubris fountain or OS X is
really shaping up.
While write-one-run-anywhere is more of a bitter joke than the
reality of Java these days, Java has made deservedly impressive
inroads on the server side in the past five years of its public
existence. Apple’s announcement that OS X contains Java 2 and its
HotSpot Virtual Machine is really good news for everyone. OS X will be a very
credible server platform indeed, but also offer the necessary
buzzword compliance for corporate client apps written to the Java 2
spec. Assuming that HotSpot is really as spiffy as the press releases
claim, OS X’s Java performance should be high enough to make
Java-based apps usable.
The most pleasant surprise of WWDC so far happened all throughout the
entire first day. Last year, Darwin was something of an anomaly. Many
Apple engineers didn’t quite know what to make of it. But this year,
Day One was chock-full of Darwin goings on. There were numerous
presentation slides that contained the bullet point “Darwin == Core
OS.” For developers,
such an expression can’t get much clearer.
Apple seems to be really serious about Darwin. We are told that the
version of Darwin that’s used in DP4 is already available on the
public Darwin source code servers, but those looking for a proper
Darwin release will have to wait until after WWDC for an official
Noteworthy goings on from the Darwin front include a successful boot
of an Intel-based machine running Darwin (no word on whether apps
other than the kernel and BSD OS layer run) as well as a preliminary
port of X Windows to Darwin 1.x drawing multiple terminal windows.
For those looking for progress outside of OS X, look no further.
No Darwin Airport
One challenge with Darwin is that it needs to be completely
open-source-able, and that means that many drivers that Apple has
rights to distribute in binary form may not be distributed as source.
Adaptec’s drivers for their SCSI cards were a frequently used
example. Another salient one is the AirPort software, which apparently belongs
to Lucent Technologies, and which therefore will only be part of
OS X. This means that there is still plenty of work to do to bring
Darwin up to the OS X driver baseline, since many of the crucial
drivers for older Macs will remain missing from Darwin until an outsider
Much remains to be done in Darwin, but Apple definitely looks like
it’s beginning to take the lead out and deliver on many of the
promises it made a year ago.
Interesting times lie ahead.